Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Despoina

In Greek mythology, Despoina, Despoena or Despoine, was the daughter of Demeter and Poseidon and sister of Arion. She was the goddess of mysteries of Arcadian cults worshipped under the title Despoina,"the mistress" alongside with her mother Demeter,one of the goddesses of the Eleusinian mysteries. Her real name could not be revealed to anyone except those initiated to her mysteries. This name is consequently unknown. She was later conflated with Kore (Persephone) the queen of the underworld in the Eleusinian mysteries who was probably originally daughter of Demeter and Poseidon rather than of Demeter and Zeus as it appears in ancient literature. The cult of Despoina is very important for the study of ancient mystery religions.

In the primitive myth, Poseidon saw Demeter, the Earth mother and desired her. To avoid him, she took her archaic form of a mare, but he took the form of a stallion and mated with her. From this union Demeter bore a daughter Despoina and a fabulous horse Arion (Ἀρείων). Due to her anger at this turn of events, Demeter took on the epithet Erinys, or raging

Sanctuary at Lycosura
Perspective reconstruction of the temple of Despoina:The acrolithic statues of Demeter (L) and Despoina (R) are visible at the scale in the cella

Despoina became worshipped in a sanctuary at Lycosura west to the town of Megalopolis. This is a very important site for the study of ancient mystery religions, although this cult remained regional than panhellenic. Despoina was later conflated with Persephone. First in that place there was a temple of Artemis Hegemone (the leader) with a bronze image (apparently Hecate). From this place there was an entrance to the sacred enclosure of Despoine. In the portico there was a tablet with the inscriptions of the mysteries. In front of the temple there was an altar to Demeter and another to Despoine, after which was one of the Great Mother. Demeter carried a torch in her right hand and her other hand was laid upon Despoine. By the side of Demeter stood Artemis (probably also identified with Hecate). By the image of Despoine stood Anytos, one of the Titans. The Arcadians believed that Despoine was brought up by Anytos and Artemis was not the daughter of Leto but of Demeter. Besides the temple there was the hall where the Arcadians celebrated the mysteries and beyond it a grove sacred to Despoine and altars of Poseidon Hippios (horse) and other gods too.
Lady of Auxerre Louvre-An Archaic (640 BC) image from Crete, probably a version of the Minoan Goddess identified with Kore.

Despoine was her surname among the many, just as they surnamed Demeter's daughter by Zeus Kore (the maiden).

Phoebe

In Greek mythology "radiant" Phoebe (play /ˈfiːbiː/; Greek: Φοίβη Phoibe), was one of the original Titans, who were one set of sons and daughters of Uranus and Gaia. She was traditionally associated with the moon (see Selene), as in Michael Drayton's Endimion and Phœbe, (1595), the first extended treatment of the Endymion myth in English. Her consort was her brother Coeus, with whom she had two daughters, Leto, who bore Apollo and Artemis, and Asteria, a star-goddess who bore an only daughter Hecate.

Through Leto she was the grandmother of Apollo and Artemis. The names Phoebe and Phoebus came to be applied as a synonym for Apollo and Artemis. According to a speech that Aeschylus, in Eumenides, puts in the mouth of the Delphic priestess herself, she received control of the Oracle at Delphi from Themis: "Phoebe in this succession seems to be his private invention," D.S. Robertson noted, reasoning that in the three great allotments of oracular powers at Delphi, corresponding to the three generations of the gods, "Ouranos, as was fitting, gave the oracle to his wife Gaia and Kronos appropriately allotted it to his sister Themis." In Zeus' turn to make the gift, however, Aeschylus could not report that the oracle was given directly to Apollo, who had not yet been born, Robertson notes, and thus Phoebe was interposed. These supposed male delegations of the powers at Delphi as expressed by Aeschylus are not borne out by the usual modern reconstruction of the sacred site's pre-Olympian history.

Coeus

In Greek mythology, Coeus (Ancient Greek: Κοῖος, Koios) was one of the Titans, the giant sons and daughters of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaia (Earth). His equivalent in Latin poetry—though he scarcely makes an appearance in Roman mythology— was Polus, the embodiment of the celestial axis around which the heavens revolve. Like most of the Titans he played no active part in Greek religion—he appears only in lists of Titans— but was primarily important for his descendants. With his sister, "shining" Phoebe, Coeus fathered Leto and Asteria. Leto copulated with Zeus (the son of fellow Titans Cronus and Rhea) and bore Artemis and Apollo.

Along with the other Titans, Coeus was overthrown by Zeus and other Olympians. After the Titan War, he and all his brothers were banished into Tartarus by Zeus.

Theia

In Greek mythology, Theia "goddess" or "divine" (sometimes written Thea or Thia), also called Euryphaessa "wide-shining," was a Titan. The name Theia alone means simply, "goddess"; Theia Euryphaessa (Θεία Εὐρυφάεσσα) brings overtones of extent (εὐρύς eurys "wide", root: εὐρυ-/εὐρε-) and brightness (φάος phaos "light", root: φαεσ-). Hesiod's Theogony gives her an equally primal origin, a daughter of Gaia (Earth) and Uranos (Sky). In 42.a Robert Graves also relates that later Theia is referred to as the cow-eyed Euryphaessa who gave birth to Helios, the sun. Once paired in later myths with her Titan brother Hyperion as her husband, "mild-eyed Euryphaessa, the far-shining one" of the Homeric Hymn to Helios, was said to be the mother of Helios (the Sun), Selene (the Moon), and Eos (the Dawn).

Pindar praises Theia in his Fifth Isthmian ode:

Mother of the Sun, Theia of many names, for your sake men honor gold as more powerful than anything else; and through the value you bestow on them, o queen, ships contending on the sea and yoked teams of horses in swift-whirling contests become marvels.

She seems here a goddess of glittering in particular and of glory in general, but Pindar's allusion to her as "Theia of many names" is telling, since it suggests assimilation, referring not only to similar mother-of-the-sun goddesses such as Phoebe and Leto, but perhaps also to more universalizing mother-figures such as Rhea and Cybele.

Hyperion

Hyperion (Greek Ὑπερίων, "The High-One") was one of the twelve Titans of Ancient Greece, the sons and daughters of Gaia (the physical incarnation of Earth) and Ouranos (literally meaning 'the Sky'), which were later supplanted by the Olympians. He was the brother of Cronus. He was also the lord of light, and the Titan of the east. He was referred to in early mythological writings as Helios Hyperion (Ἥλιος Ὑπερίων), 'Sun High-one'. But in Homer's Odyssey, Hesiod's Theogony and the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, the Sun is once in each work called Hyperionides (Ὑπεριωνιδής) 'son of Hyperion', and Hesiod certainly imagines Hyperion as a separate being in other writings. In later Ancient Greek literature, Hyperion is always distinguished from Helios; the former was ascribed the characteristics of the 'God of Watchfulness and Wisdom', while the latter became the physical incarnation of the Sun. Hyperion plays virtually no role in Greek culture and little role in mythology, save in lists of the twelve Titans. Later Greeks intellectualized their myths:

Of Hyperion we are told that he was the first to understand, by diligent attention and observation, the movement of both the sun and the moon and the other stars, and the seasons as well, in that they are caused by these bodies, and to make these facts known to others; and that for this reason he was called the father of these bodies, since he had begotten, so to speak, the speculation about them and their nature.
—Diodorus Siculus (5.67.1)

There is little to no reference to Hyperion during the Titanomachy, the epic in which the Olympians battle the ruling Titans, or the Gigantomachy, in which Gaia attempts to avenge the Titans by enlisting the aid of the giants (Γίγαντες) that were imprisoned in Tartarus to facilitate the overthrow of the Olympians.

Iapetus

In Greek mythology, Iapetus (play /aɪˈæpɪtəs/), also Iapetos or Japetus (Greek: Ἰαπετός), was a Titan, the son of Uranus and Gaia, and father (by an Oceanid named Clymene or Asia) of Atlas, Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Menoetius and through Prometheus, Epimetheus and Atlas an ancestor of the human race. He was the Titan of Mortal Life, while his son, Prometheus, was the creator of mankind.

Iapetus ("the Piercer") is the one Titan mentioned by Homer in the Iliad (8.478–81) as being in Tartarus with Cronus. He is a brother of Cronus, who ruled the world during the Golden Age.

Iapetus' wife is normally a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys named Clymene or Asia.

In Hesiod's Works and Days Prometheus is addressed as "son of Iapetus", and no mother is named. However, in Hesiod's Theogony, Clymene is listed as Iapetus' wife and the mother of Prometheus. In Aeschylus's play Prometheus Bound, Prometheus is son of the goddess Themis with no father named (but still with at least Atlas as a brother). However, in Horace's Odes, in Ode 1.3 Horace describes how "audax Iapeti genus/ Ignem fraude mala gentibus intulit"; "The bold offspring of Iapetus [i.e. Prometheus]/ brought fire to peoples by wicked deceit".

Since mostly the Titans indulge in marriage of brother and sister, it might be that Aeschylus is using an old tradition in which Themis is Iapetus' wife but that the Hesiodic tradition preferred that Themis and Mnemosyne be consorts of Zeus alone. Nevertheless, it would have been quite within Achaean practice for Zeus to take the wives of the Titans as his mistresses after throwing down their husbands.

Prometheus

In Greek mythology, Prometheus (Ancient Greek: Προμηθεύς, "Forethinker") is a Titan, the son of Iapetus and Themis, and brother to Atlas, Epimetheus and Menoetius. He was a champion of mankind, known for his wily intelligence, who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals. Zeus then punished him for his crime by having him bound to a rock while a great eagle ate his liver every day only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next day. His myth has been treated by a number of ancient sources, in which Prometheus is credited with – or blamed for – playing a pivotal role in the early history of mankind. During the Greek War of Independence, Prometheus became a figure of hope and inspiration for Greek revolutionaries and their philhellene supporters.

The Prometheus myth first appeared in the late 8th-century BC Greek epic poet Hesiod's Theogony (lines 507–616). He was a son of the Titan, Iapetus by Clymene, one of the Oceanids. He was brother to Menoetius, Atlas, and Epimetheus. In the Theogony, Hesiod introduces Prometheus as a lowly challenger to Zeus's omniscience and omnipotence. In the trick at Mecone, a sacrificial meal marking the "settling of accounts" between mortals and immortals, Prometheus played a trick against Zeus (545–557). He placed two sacrificial offerings before the Olympian: a selection of beef hidden inside an ox's stomach (nourishment hidden inside a displeasing exterior), and the bull's bones wrapped completely in "glistening fat" (something inedible hidden inside a pleasing exterior). Zeus chose the latter, setting a precedent for future sacrifices; henceforth, humans would keep the meat for themselves and burn the bones wrapped in fat as an offering to the gods. This angered Zeus, who hid fire from humans in retribution. Prometheus in turn stole fire in a giant fennel-stalk and gave it back to mankind. This further enraged Zeus, who sent Pandora, the first woman, to live with men. She was fashioned by Hephaestus out of clay and brought to life by the four winds, with all the goddesses of Olympus assembled to adorn her. "From her is the race of women and female kind," Hesiod writes; "of her is the deadly race and tribe of women who live amongst mortal men to their great trouble, no helpmeets in hateful poverty, but only in wealth."

Prometheus, in eternal punishment, is chained to a rock in the Caucasus, where his liver is eaten daily by an eagle, only to be regenerated by night, which, by legend, is due to his immortality. Years later, the Greek hero Heracles (Hercules) slays the eagle and frees Prometheus from his chains.

Hesiod revisits the story of Prometheus in the Works and Days (lines 42–105). Here, the poet expands upon Zeus's reaction to the theft of fire. Not only does Zeus withhold fire from men, but "the means of life," as well (42). Had Prometheus not provoked Zeus's wrath (44–47), "you would easily do work enough in a day to supply you for a full year even without working; soon would you put away your rudder over the smoke, and the fields worked by ox and sturdy mule would run to waste." Hesiod also expands upon the Theogony's story of the first woman, now explicitly called Pandora ("all gifts"). After Prometheus' theft of fire, Zeus sent Pandora in retaliation. Despite Prometheus' warning, Epimetheus accepted this "gift" from the gods. Pandora carried a jar with her, from which were released (91–92) "evils, harsh pain and troublesome diseases which give men death". Pandora shut the lid of the jar too late to contain all the evil plights that escaped, but hope remained in the jar.

Angelo Casanova, Professor of Greek Literature at the University of Florence, finds in Prometheus a reflection of an ancient, pre-Hesiodic trickster-figure, who served to account for the mixture of good and bad in human life, and whose fashioning of men from clay was an Eastern motif familiar in Enuma Elish; as an opponent of Zeus he was an analogue of the Titans, and like them was punished. As an advocate for humanity he gains semi-divine status at Athens, where the episode in Theogony in which he is liberated is interpreted by Casanova as a post-Hesiodic interpolation.

# Prometheus had a small shrine in the Kerameikos, or potter's quarter, of Athens, not far from the Academy. The Academy had its own altar dedicated to Prometheus. According to the 2nd-century AD Greek traveler Pausanias, this site was central to a torch race dedicated to Prometheus.
# Pausanias also wrote that the Greek cities of Argos and Opous both claimed to be Prometheus' final resting place, each erecting a tomb in his honor.
# Finally, Pausanias attested that in the Greek city of Panopeus there was a cult statue claimed by some to depict Prometheus, for having created the human race there

The two most prominent aspects of the Prometheus myth – the creation of man from clay and the theft of fire – have parallels within the beliefs of many cultures throughout the world:
The creation of man from clay

* In the Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish, the goddess Ninhursag created humans from clay.
* In Africa, the Yoruba culture holds that the god Obatala likewise created the human race from clay.
* In Egyptian mythology, the ram-headed god Khnum made people from clay in the waters of the Nile.
* In Chinese myth, the goddess Nüwa created the first humans from mud and clay.
* According to Genesis 2:7 "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
* According to Qur'an[23:12–15], Allah created man from clay.
* Mayan myth holds that Tepeu and Kukulkán (Quetzalcoatl) made the first humans from clay, but they were unsatisfactory.
* The Māori people believe that Tāne Mahuta, god of the forest, created the first woman out of clay and breathed life into her.

The theft of fire

* According to the Rig Veda (3:9.5), the hero Mātariśvan recovered fire, which had been hidden from mankind.
* In Cherokee myth, after Possum and Buzzard had failed to steal fire, Grandmother Spider used her web to sneak into the land of light. She stole fire, hiding it in a clay pot.
* Among various Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest and First Nations, fire was stolen and given to humans by Coyote, Beaver or Dog.
* According to some Yukon First Nations people, Crow stole fire from a volcano in the middle of the water.
* According to the Creek Native Americans, Rabbit stole fire from the Weasels.
* In Algonquin myth, Rabbit stole fire from an old man and his two daughters.
* In Ojibwa myth, Nanabozho the hare stole fire and gave it to humans.
* In Polynesian myth, Māui stole fire from the Mudhens.
* In the Book of Enoch, the fallen angels and Azazel teach early mankind to use tools and fire.

Punishment

* In Norse mythology, the god Loki was bound to a rock. Above him is a large serpent which drips toxic venom upon him. His wife collects the poison in a bowl, but must empty it every time it gets full. As she is in the process of doing this, the snake proceeds to cover Loki in poison. Just as Prometheus gets his liver eaten only to have it grow back again, Loki is temporarily saved from venom only to have it drip on him once more.
* In Georgian mythology Amirani challenged the chief god and for that was chained on Caucasian mountains where birds would eat his organs.

Athena

In Greek religion and mythology, Athena or Athene (play /əˈθiːnə/ or /əˈθiːniː/; Attic: Ἀθηνᾶ, Athēnā or Ἀθηναία, Athēnaia; Epic: Ἀθηναίη, Athēnaiē; Ionic: Ἀθήνη, Athēnē; Doric: Ἀθάνα, Athana), also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene (play /ˈpæləs/; Παλλὰς Ἀθηνᾶ; Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη), is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, just warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is also a shrewd companion of heroes and is the goddess of heroic endeavour. She is the virgin patron of Athens. The Athenians founded the Parthenon on the Acropolis of her namesake city, Athens (Athena Parthenos), in her honour.

Athena's veneration as the patron of Athens seems to have existed from the earliest times, and was so persistent that archaic myths about her were recast to adapt to cultural changes. In her role as a protector of the city (polis), many people throughout the Greek world worshiped Athena as Athena Polias (Ἀθηνᾶ Πολιάς "Athena of the city"). The city of Athens and the goddess Athena essentially bear the same name, "Athenai" meaning "[many] Athenas".

Athena as the goddess of philosophy became an aspect of the cult in Classical Greece during the late 5th century BC. She is the patroness of various crafts, especially of weaving, as Athena Ergane. The metalwork of weapons also fell under her patronage. She led battles (Athena Promachos or the warrior maiden Athena Parthenos) as the disciplined, strategic side of war, in contrast to her brother Ares, the patron of violence, bloodlust and slaughter—"the raw force of war". Athena's wisdom includes the cunning intelligence (metis) of such figures as Odysseus. Not only was this version of Athena the opposite of Ares in combat, it was also the polar opposite of the serene earth goddess version of the deity, Athena Polias.

Athena appears in Greek mythology as the patron and helper of many heroes, including Odysseus, Jason, and Heracles. In Classical Greek myths, she never consorts with a lover, nor does she ever marry, earning the title Athena Parthenos. A remnant of archaic myth depicts her as the adoptive mother of Erechtheus/Erichthonius through the foiled rape by Hephaestus. Other variants relate that Erichthonius, the serpent that accompanied Athena, was born to Gaia: when the rape failed, the semen landed on Gaia and impregnated her.. After Erechthonius was born, Gaia gave him to Athena.

Though Athena is a goddess of war strategy, she disliked fighting without purpose and preferred to use wisdom to settle predicaments. The goddess only encouraged fighting for a reasonable cause or to resolve conflict. As patron of Athens she fought in the Trojan war on the side of the Achaeans.

Although at Knossos Athena appears before Zeus does—in Linear B, as a-ta-na po-ti-ni-ja, "Mistress Athena"—in the Classical Olympian pantheon, Athena was remade as the favorite daughter of Zeus, born fully armed from his forehead. The story of her birth comes in several versions. In the one most commonly cited, Zeus lay with Metis, the goddess of crafty thought and wisdom, but he immediately feared the consequences. It had been prophesied that Metis would bear children more powerful than the sire, even Zeus himself. In order to forestall these dire consequences, after lying with Metis, Zeus "put her away inside his own belly;" he "swallowed her down all of a sudden." He was too late: Metis had already conceived.

Eventually Zeus experienced an enormous headache; Prometheus, Hephaestus, Hermes, Ares, or Palaemon cleaved Zeus's head with the double-headed Minoan axe, the labrys. Athena leaped from Zeus's head, fully grown and armed, with a shout— "and pealed to the broad sky her clarion cry of war. And Ouranos trembled to hear, and Mother Gaia..." (Pindar, Seventh Olympian Ode). Plato, in the Laws, attributes the cult of Athena to the culture of Crete, introduced, he thought, from Libya during the dawn of Greek culture.

Classical myths thereafter note that Hera was so annoyed at Zeus for having produced a child that she conceived and bore Hephaestus by herself.

Plato, in Cratylus (407B) gave the etymology of her name as signifying "the mind of god", theou noesis. The Christian apologist of the 2nd century Justin Martyr takes issue with those pagans who erect at springs images of Kore, whom he interprets as Athena:

"They said that Athena was the daughter of Zeus not from intercourse, but when the god had in mind the making of a world through a word (logos) his first thought was Athena"

John Milton's Paradise Lost interprets this myth as a model for the birth of Sin from the head of Satan.

Pegasus

Pegasus (Greek Πήγασος/Pegasos, Latin Pegasus) is one of the best known fantastical as well as mythological creatures in Greek mythology. He is a winged divine horse, usually white in color. He was sired by Poseidon, in his role as horse-god, and foaled by the Gorgon Medusa. He was the brother of Chrysaor, born at a single birthing when his mother was decapitated by Perseus. Greco-Roman poets write about his ascent to heaven after his birth and his obeisance to Zeus, king of the gods, who instructed him to bring lightning and thunder from Olympus. Friend of the Muses, Pegasus is the creator of Hippocrene, the fountain on Mt. Helicon. He was captured by the Greek hero Bellerophon near the fountain Peirene with the help of Athena and Poseidon. Pegasus allows the hero to ride him to defeat a monster, the Chimera, before realizing many other exploits. His rider, however, falls off his back trying to reach Mount Olympus. Zeus transformed him into the constellation Pegasus and placed him up in the sky.

Hypotheses have been proposed regarding its relationship with the Muses, the gods Athena, Poseidon, Zeus, Apollo, and the hero Perseus.

The symbolism of Pegasus varies with time. Symbol of wisdom and especially of fame from the Middle Ages until the Renaissance, he became one symbol of the poetry and the creator of sources in which the poets come to draw inspiration, particularly in the 19th century. Pegasus is the subject of a very rich iconography, especially through the ancient Greek pottery and paintings and sculptures of the Renaissance. Personification of the water, solar myth, or shaman mount, Carl Jung and his followers have seen in Pegasus a profound symbolic esoteric in relation to the spiritual energy that allows to access to the realm of the gods on Mount Olympus.

In the 20th and 21st century, he appeared in movies, in fantasy, in video games and in role play, where by extension, the term Pegasus is often used to refer to any winged horse.

Demeter

In Greek mythology, Demeter (/diˈmiːtər/; Attic Δημήτηρ Dēmētēr. Doric Δαμάτηρ Dāmātēr) is the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains, the fertility of the earth, and the seasons (personified by the Hours). Her common surnames are Sito (σίτος: wheat) as the giver of food or corn/grain and Thesmophoros (θεσμός, thesmos: divine order, unwritten law) as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society. Though Demeter is often described simply as the goddess of the harvest, she presided also over the sanctity of marriage, the sacred law, and the cycle of life and death. She and her daughter Persephone were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries that predated the Olympian pantheon. In the Linear B Mycenean Greek tablets of circa 1400-1200 BC found at Pylos, the "two mistresses and the king" are identified with Demeter, Persephone and Poseidon. Her Roman equivalent is Ceres.

In some of the earliest accounts Demeter was triune goddess representing the Virgin (Kore), the Mother (Pluto "Abundance"), and the Crone ('Persephone the Destroyer'), representing the cycle of birth, life, and death. In later legends, the name Pluto was transferred to the god of the underworld, and elements of Kore and the name Persephone became associated as her daughter.

Another aspect of Demeter, was known as the Aganippe "the Mare who destroys mercifully", a black winged horse worshiped by certain cults. In this aspect her idols (such as one found in Mavrospelya, the Black Cave, in Phigalia) she was portrayed as mare-headed with a mane entwined with Gorgon Snakes. This aspect was also associated with Anion (or Arion) whom Heracles rode, who later inspired tales of Pegasus. Aganippe became associated with a spring, where Pegasus was born according to one legend, and the nymph of the same name.

Demeter as an agricultural goddess appears rarely in the epic poetry. In Homer's Odyssey she is the blond-haired goddess who is separating the chaff from the grain. The harvesters must pray to Zeus-Chthonios (chthonic Zeus) and Demeter so that the crop will be full and strong. In the Theogony of Hesiod she is the daughter of Cronus and Rhea. At the marriage of Cadmus and Harmonia, Demeter lured Iasion away from the other revelers. They proceeded to have intercourse in a ploughed furrow in Crete; she later gave him a son, Ploutos.

Persephone, Queen of the underworld, is daughter of Zeus and Demeter. The myth of the rape of Persephone seems to be pre-Greek. In the Greek version Ploutos (πλούτος, wealth) represents the wealth of the corn that was stored in underground silos or ceramic jars (pithoi). Similar subterranean pithoi were used in ancient times for funerary practices and Pluto is fused with Hades, the King of the underworld. During summer months the Greek Corn-Maiden (Kore) is lying in the corn of the underground silos, abducted by Hades (Pluto) as it is described in Theogony. Kore is fused with Persephone, the Queen of the underworld. At the beginning of the autumn, when the corn of the old crop is laid on the fields she ascends and is reunited with her mother Demeter, for at this time the old crop and the new meet each other.

In the myths of isolated Arcadia in southern Greece Despoina (Persephone), is daughter of Demeter and Poseidon Hippios, Horse-Poseidon. These myths seem to be connected with the first Greek-speaking people who came from the north during the Bronze age. Poseidon represents the river spirit of the underworld and he appears as a horse as it often happens in northern-European folklore. He pursues the mare-Demeter and she bears one daughter who obviously originally had the form or the shape of a mare too. Demeter and Despoina were closely connected with the springs and the animals. They were related with the God of the waters Poseidon and especially with the mistress of the animals Artemis who was the first nymph.

In another tale, Demeter punished Erysichthon of Thessaly by inflicting him with insatiable hunger after he cut down a tree in a sacred garden which killed a dryad and the other dryads informed Demeter of this.

Persephone

In Greek mythology, Persephone /pərˈsɛfəniː/, also called Kore (the maiden) /ˈkɔəriː/, is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest-goddess Demeter, and queen of the underworld. Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable majestic queen of the shades, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead. Kore was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest; hence she is also associated with spring and with the seeds of the fruits of the fields. Similar myths appear in the Orient, in the cults of male gods like Attis, Adonis and Osiris, and later in the cult of Dionysos.

Persephone as a vegetation goddess (Kore) and her mother Demeter were the central figures of the Eleusinian mysteries that predated the Olympian pantheon, and promised to the initiated a reward in a future existence. The mystic Persephone is further said to have become by Zeus the mother of Dionysos, Iacchus, or Zagreus. The origins of her cult are uncertain, but they may be related to the cult of Despoina in isolated Arcadia. In the Mycenean Greek tablets dated 1400-1200 BC , the "two mistresses and the king" are mentioned; John Chadwick believes that these were the precursor divinities of Demeter, Persephone and Poseidon. Demeter and Persephone were the two Great Goddesses of the Arcadian cults.

Persephone was commonly worshipped along with Demeter, and with the same mysteries. To her alone were dedicated the mysteries celebrated at Athens in the month of Anthesterion. In Classical Greek art, Persephone is invariably portrayed robed; often carrying a sheaf of grain. She may appear as a mystical divinity with a sceptre and a little box, but she was mostly represented in the act of being carried off by Hades.

In Roman mythology, she is called Proserpina.

Gaia

Gaia (ˈɡeɪ.ə/ or /ˈɡaɪ.ə/; from Ancient Greek Γαῖα "land" or "earth"; also Gæa, Gaea, or Gea; Koine Greek: Γῆ) was the primordial Earth-goddess in ancient Greek religion. Gaia was the great mother of all: the heavenly gods and Titans were descended from her union with Uranus (the sky), the sea-gods from her union with Pontus (the sea), the Giants from her mating with Tartarus (the hell-pit) and mortal creatures were sprung or born from her earthy flesh. The earliest reference to her is Mycenaean Greek Linear B ma-ka (transliterated as ma-ga), "Mother Gaia."

Her equivalent in the Roman pantheon was Terra.

Hesiod's Theogony (116ff) tells how, after Chaos, arose Gaia, the everlasting foundation of the gods of Olympus. She brought forth Uranus, the starry sky, her equal, to cover her, the hills (Ourea), and the fruitless deep of the Sea, Pontus, "without sweet union of love," out of her own self through parthenogenesis. But afterwards, as Hesiod tells it,

she lay with her son, Uranus, and bore the world-ocean god Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and the Titans Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, and Phoebe of the golden crown, and lovely Tethys. After them was born Cronus the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire.

Hesiod mentions Gaia's further offspring conceived with Uranus: first the giant one-eyed Cyclopes: Brontes ("thunderer"), Steropes ("lightning") and the "bright" Arges: "Strength and might and craft were in their works." Then he adds the three terrible hundred-handed sons of Earth and Heaven, the Hecatonchires: Cottus, Briareos and Gyges, each with fifty heads.

Uranus hid the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes in Tartarus so that they would not see the light, rejoicing in this evil doing. This caused pain to Gaia (Tartarus was her bowels) so she created grey flint (or adamantine) and shaped a great flint sickle, gathering together Cronus and his brothers to ask them to obey her. Only Cronus, the youngest, had the daring to take the flint sickle she made, and castrate his father as he approached Gaia to have intercourse with her. And from the drops of blood and semen, Gaia brought forth still more progeny, the strong Erinyes and the armoured Gigantes and the ash-tree Nymphs called the Meliae.

Zeus hid Elara, one of his lovers, from Hera by hiding her under the earth. His son by Elara, the giant Tityos, is therefore sometimes said to be a son of Gaia, the earth goddess.

Gaia is believed by some sources to be the original deity behind the Oracle at Delphi. Depending on the source, Gaia passed her powers on to Poseidon, Apollo or Themis. Apollo is the best-known as the oracle power behind Delphi, long established by the time of Homer, having killed Gaia's child Python there and usurped the chthonic power. Hera punished Apollo for this by sending him to King Admetus as a shepherd for nine years.

In classical art Gaia was represented in one of two ways. In Athenian vase painting she was shown as a matronly woman only half risen from the earth, often in the act of handing the baby Erichthonius (a future king of Athens) to Athena to foster (see example below). In mosaic representations, she appears as a woman reclining upon the earth surrounded by a host of Carpi, infant gods of the fruits of the earth (see example below under Interpretations).

Gaia also made Aristaeus immortal.

Oaths sworn in the name of Gaia, in ancient Greece, were considered the most binding of all.

From the testicles of Uranus in the sea came forth Aphrodite. After Uranus's castration, Gaia, by Tartarus, gave birth to Echidna (by some accounts) and Typhon. By her son Pontus (god of the sea), Gaia birthed the sea-deities Nereus, Thaumas, Phorcys, Ceto, and Eurybia. Aergia, a goddess of sloth and laziness, is the daughter of Aether and Gaia.

Twenty-four Hours of Blogging for Leap Year

I'm half-way to my goal of celebrating the leap year with a-post-per-hour on February 29, this extra day of 2012. I'm a little tired but think I can make it another twelve hours!

Hades

Hades (ˈheɪdiːz/; from Greek ᾍδης (older form Ἀϝίδης), Hadēs, originally Ἅιδης, Haidēs or Άΐδης, Aidēs (Doric Ἀΐδας Aidas), meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive ᾍδου, Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead. In Greek mythology, Hades is the oldest male child of Cronus and Rhea. According to myth, he and his brothers Zeus and Poseidon defeated the Titans and claimed rulership over the cosmos, ruling the underworld, air, and sea, respectively; the solid earth, long the province of Gaia, was available to all three concurrently.

Hades was also called "Plouton" (Greek: Πλούτων, gen.: Πλούτωνος, meaning "Rich One"), a name which the Romans Latinized as Pluto. The Romans would associate Hades/Pluto with their own chthonic gods, Dis Pater and Orcus. The corresponding Etruscan god was Aita. Symbols associated with him are the Helm of Darkness and the three-headed dog, Cerberus. The term hades in Christian theology (and in New Testament Greek) is parallel to Hebrew sheol (שאול, grave or dirt-pit), and refers to the abode of the dead. The Christian concept of hell is more akin to and communicated by the Greek concept of Tartarus, a deep, gloomy part of hades used as a dungeon of torment and suffering.

In Greek mythology, Hades (the "unseen"), the god of the underworld, was a son of the Titans, Cronus and Rhea. He had three sisters, Demeter, Hestia, and Hera, as well as two brothers, Zeus, the youngest of the three, and Poseidon, collectively comprising the original six Olympian gods. Upon reaching adulthood, Zeus managed to force his father to disgorge his siblings. After their release the six younger gods, along with allies they managed to gather, challenged the elder gods for power in the Titanomachy, a divine war. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades received weapons from the three Cyclopes to help in the war: Zeus the thunderbolt, Hades the Helm of Darkness, and Poseidon the trident. The night before the first battle, Hades put on his helmet and, being invisible, slipped over to the Titans' camp and destroyed their weapons. The war lasted for ten years and ended with the victory of the younger gods. Following their victory, according to a single famous passage in the Iliad (xv.187–93), Hades and his two brothers, Poseidon and Zeus, drew lots for realms to rule. Zeus got the sky, Poseidon got the seas, and Hades received the underworld, the unseen realm to which the dead go upon leaving the world as well as any and all things beneath the earth.

Hades obtained his eventual consort and queen, Persephone, through trickery, a story that connected the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries with the Olympian pantheon in a founding myth for the realm of the dead. Helios told the grieving Demeter that Hades was not unworthy as a consort for Persephone:

"Aidoneus, the Ruler of Many, is no unfitting husband among the deathless gods for your child, being your own brother and born of the same stock: also, for honor, he has that third share which he received when division was made at the first, and is appointed lord of those among whom he dwells."

— Homeric Hymn to Demeter

Despite modern connotations of death as evil, Hades was actually more altruistically inclined in mythology. Hades was often portrayed as passive rather than evil; his role was often maintaining relative balance. Hades ruled the dead, assisted by others over whom he had complete authority. He strictly forbade his subjects to leave his domain and would become quite enraged when anyone tried to leave, or if someone tried to steal the souls from his realm. His wrath was equally terrible for anyone who tried to cheat death or otherwise crossed him, as Sisyphus and Pirithous found out to their sorrow. Besides Heracles, the only other living people who ventured to the Underworld were all heroes: Odysseus, Aeneas (accompanied by the Sibyl), Orpheus, Theseus with Pirithous, and, in a late romance, Psyche. None of them were pleased with what they witnessed in the realm of the dead. In particular, the Greek war hero Achilles, whom Odysseus conjured with a blood libation, said:

"O shining Odysseus, never try to console me for dying.
I would rather follow the plow as thrall to another
man, one with no land allotted to him and not much to live on,
than be a king over all the perished dead."

— Achilles' soul to Odysseus. Homer, Odyssey 11.488-491

Semele

Semele (play /ˈsɛməliː/; Greek: Σεμέλη, Semelē), in Greek mythology, daughter of the Boeotian hero Cadmus and Harmonia, was the mortal mother of Dionysus by Zeus in one of his many origin myths. In another version of his mythic origin, he is the son of Persephone. The name "Semele", like other elements of Dionysiac cult (e.g., thyrsus and dithyramb), is manifestly not Greek but Thraco-Phrygian;, derived from a PIE root meaning "earth". Her son was a god who died in order to be reborn as it happens in the religions of the Orient and in the religion of Minoan Crete.

It seems that certain elements of the cult of Dionysos and Semele were adopted by the Thracians from the local populations when they moved to Asia Minor, where they were named Phrygians. These were transmitted later to the Greek colonists. Herodotus, who gives the account of Cadmus, estimates that Semele lived sixteen hundred years before his time, or around 2000 B.C.

In one version of the myth, Semele was a priestess of Zeus, and on one occasion was observed by Zeus as she slaughtered a bull at his altar and afterwards swam in the river Asopus to cleanse herself of the blood. Flying over the scene in the guise of an eagle, Zeus fell in love with Semele and afterwards repeatedly visited her secretly.

Zeus' wife, Hera, a goddess jealous of usurpers, discovered his affair with Semele when she later became pregnant. Appearing as an old crone, Hera befriended Semele, who confided in her that her lover was actually Zeus. Hera pretended not to believe her, and planted seeds of doubt in Semele's mind. Curious, Semele asked Zeus to grant her a boon. Zeus, eager to please his beloved, promised on the River Styx to grant her anything she wanted. She then demanded that Zeus reveal himself in all his glory as proof of his godhood. Though Zeus begged her not to ask this, she persisted and he was forced by his oath to comply. Zeus tried to spare her by showing her the smallest of his bolts and the sparsest thunderstorm clouds he could find. Mortals, however, cannot look upon Zeus without incinerating, and she perished, consumed in lightning-ignited flame.

Zeus rescued the fetal Dionysus, however, by sewing him into his thigh (whence the epithet Eiraphiotes, "insewn", of the Homeric Hymn). A few months later, Dionysus was born. This leads to his being called "the twice-born".

When he grew up, Dionysus rescued his mother from Hades, and she became a goddess on Mount Olympus, with the new name Thyone, presiding over the frenzy inspired by her son Dionysus

Ariadne

Ariadne (/æriˈædniː/; Ancient Greek: Αριάδνη; Latin: Ariadna; "most holy", Cretan Greek αρι [ari] "most" and αδνος [adnos] "holy"), in Greek mythology, was the daughter of King Minos of Crete, and his queen Pasiphaë, daughter of Helios, the Sun-titan. She is mostly associated with mazes and labyrinths, due to her involvement in the myths of the Minotaur and Theseus. Her father put her in charge of the labyrinth where sacrifices were made as part of reparations (either to Poseidon or to Athens, depending on the version of the myth); however, she would later help Theseus in overcoming the Minotaur and saving the would-be sacrificial victims. In other stories, she became the bride of the god Dionysus, with the question of her background as being either a mortal or a goddess varying in those accounts.

Since ancient Greek myths were passed down through oral tradition, many variations of this and other myths exist. According to an Athenian version of the legend, Minos attacked Athens after his son was killed there. The Athenians asked for terms, and were required to sacrifice seven young men and seven maidens every nine years to the Minotaur. One year, the sacrificial party included Theseus, a young man who volunteered to come and kill the Minotaur. Ariadne fell in love at first sight, and helped him by giving him a sword and a ball of thread, so that he could find his way out of the Minotaur's labyrinth.

She eloped with Theseus after he achieved his goal, but according to Homer "he had no joy of her, for ere that, Artemis slew her in seagirt Dia because of the witness of Dionysus" (Odyssey XI, 321-5). Homer does not expand on the nature of Dionysus' accusation, but the Oxford Classical Dictionary speculates that she was already married to Dionysus when Theseus ran away with her.

In Hesiod and most other accounts, Theseus abandoned Ariadne sleeping on Naxos, and Dionysus rediscovered and wedded her.

In a few versions of the myth, Dionysus appeared to Theseus as they sailed away from Crete, saying that he had chosen Ariadne as his wife, and demanded that Theseus leave her on Naxos for him; this has the effect of absolving the Athenian culture-hero of desertion. The vase-painters of Athens often showed Athena leading Theseus from the sleeping Ariadne to his ship.

With Dionysus, she was the mother of Oenopion, the personification of wine, Staphylus (related to grapes), Thoas, Peparethus, Phanus, Eurymedon, Ceramus, Maron, Euanthes, Latramys and Tauropolis. Her wedding diadem was set in the heavens as the constellation Corona.

She remained faithful to Dionysus, but was later killed by Perseus at Argos. In other myths Ariadne hanged herself from a tree, like Erigone and the hanging Artemis, a Mesopotamian theme. Some scholars think, due to her thread-spinning and winding associations, that she was a weaving goddess such as Arachne, and they support the assertion with the mytheme of the Hanged Nymph.

Dionysus however descended into Hades and brought her and his mother Semele back. They then joined the gods in Olympus.

Dionysus

Dionysus daɪ.əˈnaɪsəs/ dy-ə-ny-səs (Ancient Greek: Διόνυσος, Dionysos) was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete. His origins are uncertain, and his cults took many forms; some are described by ancient sources as Thracian, others as Greek. In some cults, he arrives from the east, as an Asiatic foreigner; in others, from Ethiopia in the South. He is a god of epiphany, "the god that comes", and his "foreignness" as an arriving outsider-god may be inherent and essential to his cults. He is a major, popular figure of Greek mythology and religion, and is included in some lists of the twelve Olympians. His festivals were the driving force behind the development of Greek theater. He is an example of a dying god.

The earliest cult images of Dionysus show a mature male, bearded and robed. He holds a fennel staff, tipped with a pine-cone and known as a thyrsus. Later images show him as a beardless, sensuous, naked or half-naked androgynous youth: the literature describes him as womanly or "man-womanish". In its fully developed form, his central cult imagery shows his triumphant, disorderly arrival or return, as if from some place beyond the borders of the known and civilized. His procession (thiasus) is made up of wild female followers (maenads) and ithyphallic, bearded satyrs. Some are armed with the thyrsus, some dance or play music. The god himself is drawn in a chariot, usually by exotic beasts such as lions or tigers, and is sometimes attended by a bearded, drunken Silenus. This procession is presumed to be the cult model for the human followers of his Dionysian Mysteries. In his Thracian mysteries, he wears the bassaris or fox-skin, symbolizing a new life. Dionysus is represented by city religions as the protector of those who do not belong to conventional society and thus symbolizes everything which is chaotic, dangerous and unexpected, everything which escapes human reason and which can only be attributed to the unforeseeable action of the gods.

He was also known as Bacchus (play /ˈbækəs/ or /ˈbɑːkəs/; Greek: Βάκχος, Bakkhos), the name adopted by the Romans and the frenzy he induces, bakkheia. His thyrsus is sometimes wound with ivy and dripping with honey. It is a beneficent wand but also a weapon, and can be used to destroy those who oppose his cult and the freedoms he represents. He is also the Liberator (Eleutherios), whose wine, music and ecstatic dance frees his followers from self-conscious fear and care, and subverts the oppressive restraints of the powerful. Those who partake in his mysteries are possessed and empowered by the god himself. His cult is also a "cult of the souls"; his maenads feed the dead through blood-offerings, and he acts as a divine communicant between the living and the dead.

In Greek mythology, he is presented as a son of Zeus and the mortal Semele, thus semi-divine or heroic: and as son of Zeus and Persephone or Demeter, thus both fully divine, part-chthonic and possibly identical with Iacchus of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Some scholars believe that Dionysus is a syncretism of a local Greek nature deity and a more powerful god from Thrace or Phrygia such as Sabazios or Zalmoxis.

Maenads

In Greek mythology, maenads (Ancient Greek: μαινάδες, mainádes) were the female followers of Dionysus (Bacchus in the Roman pantheon), the most significant members of the Thiasus, the god's retinue. Their name literally translates as "raving ones". Often the maenads were portrayed as inspired by him into a state of ecstatic frenzy, through a combination of dancing and drunken intoxication. In this state, they would lose all self-control, begin shouting excitedly, engage in uncontrolled sexual behavior, and ritualistically hunt down and tear to pieces animals — and, at least in myth, sometimes men and children — devouring the raw flesh. During these rites, the maenads would dress in fawn skins and carry a thyrsus, a long stick wrapped in ivy or vine leaves and tipped by a cluster of leaves; they would weave ivy-wreaths around their heads, and often handle or wear snakes. German philologist Walter Friedrich Otto writes that

The Bacchae of Euripides gives us the most vital picture of the wonderful circumstance in which, as Plato says in the Ion, the god-intoxicated celebrants draw milk and honey from the streams. They strike rocks with the thyrsus, and water gushes forth. They lower the thyrsus to the earth, and a spring of wine bubbles up. If they want milk, they scratch up the ground with their fingers and draw up the milky fluid. Honey trickles down from the thyrsus made of the wood of the ivy, they gird themselves with snakes and give suck to fawns and wolf cubs as if they were infants at the breast. Fire does not burn them. No weapon of iron can wound them, and the snakes harmlessly lick up the sweat from their heated cheeks. Fierce bulls fall to the ground, victims to numberless, tearing female hands, and sturdy trees are torn up by the roots with their combined efforts.

The maddened Hellenic women of real life were mythologized as the mad women who were nurses of Dionysus in Nysa: Lycurgus "chased the Nurses of the frenzied Dionysus through the holy hills of Nysa, and the sacred implements dropped to the ground from the hands of one and all,as the murderous Lycurgus struck them down with his ox-goad." They went into the mountains at night and practised strange rites.

In Macedon, according to Plutarch's Life of Alexander, they were called Mimallones and Klodones, epithets derived from the feminine art of spinning wool; nevertheless, these warlike parthenoi ("virgins") from the hills, associated with a shamanic Dionysios pseudanor, routed an invading enemy. In southern Greece they were described as Bacchae, Bassarides, Thyiades, Potniades and given other epithets.

The maenads were also known as Bassarids (or Bacchae or Bacchantes) in Roman mythology, after the penchant of the equivalent Roman god, Bacchus, to wear a fox-skin, a bassaris.

In Euripides' play The Bacchae, Theban maenads murdered King Pentheus after he banned the worship of Dionysus. Dionysus, Pentheus' cousin, himself lured Pentheus to the woods, where the maenads tore him apart. His corpse was mutilated by his own mother, Agave, who tore off his head, believing it to be that of a lion.

A group of maenads also killed Orpheus.

In Greek vase painting, the frolicking of maenads and Dionysus is often a theme depicted on Greek kraters, used to mix water and wine. These scenes show the maenads in their frenzy running in the forests, often tearing to pieces any animal they happen to come across.

Poseidon

Poseidon (Greek: Ποσειδῶν) was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon. Linear B tablets show that Poseidon was venerated at Pylos and Thebes in pre-Olympian Bronze Age Greece, but he was integrated into the Olympian gods as the brother of Zeus and Hades. Poseidon has many children. There is a Homeric hymn to Poseidon, who was the protector of many Hellenic cities, although he lost the contest for Athens to Athena.

Poseidon was a major civic god of several cities: in Athens, he was second only to Athena in importance, while in Corinth and many cities of Magna Graecia he was the chief god of the polis.

In his benign aspect, Poseidon was seen as creating new islands and offering calm seas. When offended or ignored, he supposedly struck the ground with his trident and caused chaotic springs, earthquakes, drownings and shipwrecks. Sailors prayed to Poseidon for a safe voyage, sometimes drowning horses as a sacrifice; in this way, according to a fragmentary papyrus, Alexander the Great paused at the Syrian seashore before the climactic battle of Issus, and resorted to prayers, "invoking Poseidon the sea-god, for whom he ordered a four-horse chariot to be cast into the waves."

According to Pausanias, Poseidon was one of the caretakers of the oracle at Delphi before Olympian Apollo took it over. Apollo and Poseidon worked closely in many realms: in colonization, for example, Delphic Apollo provided the authorization to go out and settle, while Poseidon watched over the colonists on their way, and provided the lustral water for the foundation-sacrifice. Xenophon's Anabasis describes a group of Spartan soldiers in 400–399 BCE singing to Poseidon a paean—a kind of hymn normally sung for Apollo.

Like Dionysus, who inflamed the maenads, Poseidon also caused certain forms of mental disturbance. A Hippocratic text of ca 400 BCE, On the Sacred Disease says that he was blamed for certain types of epilepsy.

Atlas

In Greek mythology, Atlas (English pronunciation: /ˈætləs/, Greek. Ἄτλας) was the primordial Titan who supported the heavens. Although associated with various places, he became commonly identified with the Atlas Mountains in northwest Africa (Modern-day Morocco and Algeria). Atlas was the son of the Titan Iapetus and the Oceanid Asia or Klyménē (Κλυμένη):

Now Iapetus took to wife the neat-ankled maid Clymene, daughter of Ocean, and went up with her into one bed. And she bare him a stout-hearted son, Atlas: also she bare very glorious Menoetius and clever Prometheus, full of various wiles, and scatter-brained Epimetheus.
—Hesiod, Theogony 507ff.

In contexts where a Titan and a Titaness are assigned each of the seven planetary powers, Atlas is paired with Phoebe and governs the moon. He had three brothers: Prometheus, Epimetheus and Menoetius.

Hyginus emphasises the primordial nature of Atlas by making him the son of Aether and Gaia.

The first part of the term "Atlantic Ocean" refers to "Sea of Atlas", the term "Atlantis" refers to "island of Atlas"

Atlas and his brother Menoetius sided with the Titans in their war against the Olympians, the Titanomachy. His brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus weighed the odds and betrayed the other Titans by forming an alliance with the Olympians. When the Titans were defeated, many of them (including Menoetius) were confined to Tartarus, but Zeus condemned Atlas to stand at the western edge of Gaia (the Earth) and hold up Uranus (the Sky) on his shoulders, to prevent the two from resuming their primordial embrace. Thus, he was Atlas Telamon, "enduring Atlas," and became a doublet of Koios, the embodiment of the celestial axis around which the heavens revolve. A common interpretation today is that Atlas was forced to hold the Earth on his shoulders, but Classical art shows Atlas holding the celestial spheres, not a globe; the solidity of the marble globe borne by the renowned Farnese Atlas may have aided the conflation, reinforced in the 16th century by the developing usage of atlas to describe a corpus of terrestrial maps.

In a late story, a giant named Atlas tried to drive a wandering Perseus from the place where the Atlas mountains now stand. In Ovid's telling, Perseus revealed Medusa's head, turning Atlas to stone (those very mountains) when he tried to drive him away, as a prophecy said that a son of Zeus would steal the golden apples. As is not uncommon in myth, this account cannot be reconciled with the far more common stories of Atlas' dealings with Heracles, who was Perseus' great-grandson.

According to Plato, the first king of Atlantis was also named Atlas, but that Atlas was a son of Poseidon and the mortal woman Cleito. A euhemerist origin for Atlas was as a legendary Atlas, king of Mauretania, an expert astronomer.

One of the Twelve Labors of the hero Heracles was to fetch some of the golden apples which grow in Hera's garden, tended by Atlas' daughters, the Hesperides, and guarded by the dragon Ladon. Heracles went to Atlas and offered to hold up the heavens while Atlas got the apples from his daughters.

Upon his return with the apples, however, Atlas attempted to trick Heracles into carrying the sky permanently by offering to deliver the apples himself. Because anyone who purposely took the burden must carry it forever, or until someone else took it away from them. Heracles, suspecting Atlas did not intend to return, pretended to agree to Atlas' offer, asking only that Atlas take the sky again for a few minutes so Heracles could rearrange his cloak as padding on his shoulders. When Atlas set down the apples and took the heavens upon his shoulders again, Heracles took the apples and ran away.

In some versions, Heracles instead built the two great Pillars of Hercules to hold the sky away from the earth, liberating Atlas much as he liberated Prometheus.

Telchines

In Greek mythology, the Telchines (Greek: Τελχῖνες Telkhines) were the original inhabitants of the island of Rhodes, and were known in Crete and Cyprus.

Their parents were either Pontus and Gaia, or Tartarus and Nemesis, or else they were born from the blood of castrated Ouranos along with the Erinyes. In another story there were nine Telchines, children of Thalassa and Pontus; they had flippers instead of hands and dogs' heads and were known as fish children.

They were regarded as excellent metallurgists: various accounts state that they were skilled metal workers in brass and iron, and made a trident for Poseidon and a sickle for Cronus, both ceremonial weapons. By some accounts, their children were the goddesses Ialysos (Ἰαλυσός), Kamiros (Κάμειρος) and Lindos (Λίνδος). The Telchines were entrusted by Rhea with the upbringing of Poseidon, which they accomplished with the aid of Capheira (Καφείρα), a daughter of Oceanus. Another version says that Rhea accompanied them to Crete from Rhodes, where nine of the Telchines, known as the Curetes, were selected to bring up Zeus.

The Telchines were associated and sometimes confused with the Cyclopes, Dactyls and Curetes.

The gods (Zeus, Poseidon or Apollo) eventually killed them because they began to use magic for malignant purposes; particularly, they produced a mixture of Stygian water and sulfur, which killed animals and plants (according to Nonnus, they did so as a revenge for being driven out of Rhodes by the Heliadae). Accounts vary on how exactly they were destroyed: by flood, or Zeus's thunderbolt, or Poseidon's trident, or else Apollo assumed the shape of a wolf to kill them. They apparently lost one of the titanomachias, the battles between the gods and the Titans.

Meliae

In Greek mythology, the Meliae or Meliai (Ancient Greek: Μελίαι or Μελιάδες) were nymphs of the ash tree, whose name they shared. They appeared from the drops of blood spilled when Cronus castrated Uranus, according to Hesiod, Theogony 187. From the same blood sprang the Erinyes, suggesting that the ash-tree nymphs represented the Fates in milder guise. From the Meliae sprang the race of mankind of the Age of Bronze.

The Meliae belong to a class of sisterhoods whose nature is to appear collectively and who are invoked in the plural, though genealogical myths, especially in Hesiod, give them individual names, such as Melia, "but these are quite clearly secondary and carry no great weight". The Melia thus singled out is one of these daughters of Oceanus. By her brother the river-god Inachus, she became the mother of Io, Phoroneus, Aegialeus or Phegeus, and Philodice. In other stories, she was the mother of Amycus by Poseidon, as the Olympian representative of Oceanus.

Many species of Fraxinus, the ash trees, exude a sugary substance, which the ancient Greeks called méli, "honey". The species of ash in the mountains of Greece is the Manna-ash (Fraxinus ornus). The Meliae were nurses of the infant Zeus in the Cretan cave of Dikte, according to Callimachus, Hymn to Zeus. They fed him honey.

Of "manna", the ash-tree sugar, the standard 19th-century US pharmacopeia, The Dispensatory of the United States of America (14th edition, Philadelphia, 1878) said:

It is owing to the presence of true sugar and dextrin that manna is capable of fermenting...Manna, when long kept, acquires a deeper color, softens, and ultimately deliquesces into a liquid which on the addition of yeast, undergoes the vinous fermentation.

Fermented honey preceded wine as an entheogen in the Aegean world.

Erinyes

In Greek mythology the Erinyes (Ἐρινύες, pl. of Ἐρινύς, Erinys; literally "the avengers") from Greek ἐρίνειν " pursue, persecute"--sometimes referred to as "infernal goddesses" (Greek χθόνιαι θεαί)-- were female chthonic deities of vengeance. A formulaic oath in the Iliad invokes them as "those who beneath the earth punish whosoever has sworn a false oath". Burkert suggests they are "an embodiment of the act of self-cursing contained in the oath".

They correspond to the Furies or Dirae in Roman mythology.

When the Titan Cronus castrated his father Uranus and threw his genitalia into the sea, the Erinyes emerged from the drops of blood, while Aphrodite was born from the crests of seafoam. According to variant accounts, they emerged from an even more primordial level—from Nyx, "Night". Their number is usually left indeterminate. Virgil, probably working from an Alexandrian source, recognized three: Alecto ("unnameable" who appeared in Virgil's Aeneid), Megaera ("grudging"), and Tisiphone ("vengeful destruction"). Dante followed Virgil in depicting the same three-charactered triptych of Erinyes; in Canto IX of the Inferno they confront the poets at the gates of the city of Dis. The heads of the Erinyes were wreathed with serpents (compare Gorgon) and their eyes dripped with blood, rendering their appearance rather horrific. Other depictions show them with the wings of a bat or bird and the body of a dog.

In Aeschylus's Oresteia, the story is begun with Agamemnon's return home, to find that his wife, Clytemnestra, had married her lover, Aegisthus. Agememnon was slain by his wife. When Orestes, their son, reached manhood, he was commanded by one of Apollo’s oracles to avenge his father‘s murder at his mother’s hand. Orestes hastened to follow Apollo’s orders. He returned home and revealed himself to his sister. However, he pretended to be a messenger bringing the news of his death and slew Clytemnestra. Although Orestes’ actions were what the god Apollo had commanded him to do, Orestes had still committed matricide and because of this, he was pursued by the terrible Erinyes. They chased him relentlessly and upon reaching Delphi he was told by Apollo that he should go to Athens to seek Athena's aid; he does so and she arranges a trial. The Erinyes appeared as Orestes’ accusers, while Apollo spoke in defence. He was acquitted and after this process the Erinyes were satisfied by Athena's mixture of bribes and veiled threats; and at this point Athena then leads a procession accompanying them to their new abode and the escort now addresses them as "Semnai" (Venerable Ones), as they will now be honored by the citizens of Athens and ensure the city's prosperity.

In Euripides Orestes (play) they are for the first time "equated" with the Eumenides (Εὐμενίδες, pl. of Εὐμενίς; literally "the gracious ones" but also translated as "Kindly Ones"

Giants

In Greek mythology, the Giants were the children of Gaia, who was fertilized by the blood of Uranus, after Uranus was castrated by his son Cronus. Some depictions stated that these Giants had snake-like tails.

Gaia, incensed by the imprisonment of the Titans in Tartarus by the Olympians, incited the Giants to rise up in arms against them, end their reign, and restore the Titans' rule. Led on by Alcyoneus, and Porphyrion, they tested the strength of the Olympians in what is known as the Gigantomachia or Gigantomachy. The Giants Otus and Ephialtes hoped to reach the top of Mount Olympus by stacking the mountain ranges of Thessaly, Pelion, and Ossa on top of each other.

The Olympians called upon the aid of Heracles after a prophecy warned them that he was required to defeat the Giants, for the aid of a mortal was needed. Athena, instructed by Zeus, sought out Heracles and requested his participation in the battle. Heracles responded to Athena's request by shooting an arrow dipped in the poisonous blood of the dreaded Hydra at Alcyoneus, which made the Giant fall to the earth. However, the Giant was immortal so long as he remained in Pallene. Athena advised Heracles to drag Alcyoneus outside Pallene to make the Giant susceptible to death. Once outside Pallene, he was beaten to death by Heracles. Heracles slew not only Alcyoneus, but dealt the death blow to the Giants who had been wounded by the Olympians. The Giants who died by the hero's hands were Alcyoneus, Ephialtes, Leon, Peloreus, Porphyrion and Theodamas, giving Heracles the most kills of the Gigantomachy.

The Olympians fought the Giants with the Moirai aiding them before the aforementioned prophecy was made, meaning the Giants would have overcome the combined efforts of both Olympus and the Sisters of Fate had Heracles not fought.

"Power is latent violence, which must have been manifested at least in some mythological once-upon-a-time. Superiority is guaranteed only by defeated inferiors," Walter Burkert remarked of the Gigantomachy.

This battle occurred in the time when Heracles lived, so many events had already happened: the establishment of the Olympian gods, their progeny, the adventures of Perseus (forefather of Heracles) and so on. Thus in the Gigantomachy, the Moirai and Heracles, having joined the Olympians, defeated the Giants and quelled the rebellion, confirming their reign over the earth, sea, and heaven, and confining the Giants into Tartarus. The only Giant not slain in the conflict was Aristaios, who was turned into a dung beetle by Gaia so the Giant might be safe from the wrath of the Olympians.

Whether the Gigantomachy was interpreted in ancient times as a kind of indirect "revenge of the Titans" upon the Olympians — as the Giants' reign would have been in some fashion a restoration of the age of the Titans — is not attested in any of the few literary references. Later Hellenistic poets and Latin ones tended to blur Titans and Giants.

According to the Greeks, the Giants were buried by the gods beneath the earth, where their writhing caused volcanic activity and earthquakes.

In iconic representations the Gigantomachy was a favorite theme of the Greek vase-painters of the 5th century BC.

More impressive depictions of the Gigantomachy can be found in classical sculptural relief, such as the great altar of Pergamon, where the serpent-legged giants are locked in battle with a host of gods, or in Antiquity at the Temple of Olympian Zeus at Acragas.

Some of the Giants identified by individual names were:

* Eurymedon - Mentioned by Homer as a king of the Giants.
* Alcyoneus - One of the strongest of the Giants, along with Porphyrion. Slain by his own grandnephew, Heracles.
* Porphyrion - One of the strongest of the Giants, along with Alcyoneus. Referred to by Pindar as king of the Giants. Wounded by his nephew Zeus with lightning bolts and finished off with an arrow by his grandnephew Heracles.
* Agrios - Clubbed to death by his three nieces/grandnieces, the Moirai, with clubs of bronze.
* Clytius - Immolated by his niece Hecate with flaming torches.
* Damysos -
* Enceladus - Killed by his grandniece, Athena, and buried underneath Mount Etna, like Typhon, on Sicily.
* Ephialtes of the Aloadae - Shot by grandnephews Apollo and Heracles with arrows, or inadvertently killed by Otus.
* Eurytus - Slain by grandnephew Dionysus with his pine-cone tipped thyrsos.
* Gration - Slain by his grandniece, the goddess Artemis with her arrows.
* Hippolytus - Slain by his grandnephew Hermes with his sword and wearing the cap of invisibility.
* Leon -
* Mimas - Slain by grandnephew Hephaestus with a volley of molten iron, or slain by Ares and robbed of his armor.
* Otus of the Aloadae - Shot by grandnephews Apollo and Heracles with arrows, or inadvertently killed by Ephialtes.
* Pallas - Killed by grandniece Athena.
* Peloreus -
* Polybotes - Crushed by nephew Poseidon beneath the island of Nisyros.
* Theodamas -
* Thoon - Clubbed to death, like Agrios, by his three nieces/grandnieces, the Moirai with clubs of bronze.

Uranus

Uranus (/ˈjʊərənəs/ or /jʊˈreɪnəs/) (Ancient Greek Οὐρανός, Ouranos meaning "sky" or "heaven"), was the primal Greek god personifying the sky. His equivalent in Roman mythology was Caelus. In Ancient Greek literature, according to Hesiod in his Theogony, Uranus or Father Sky was the son and husband of Gaia, Mother Earth. Uranus and Gaia were ancestors of most of the Greek gods, but no cult addressed directly to Uranus survived into Classical times, and Uranus does not appear among the usual themes of Greek painted pottery. Elemental Earth, Sky and Styx might be joined, however, in a solemn invocation in Homeric epic.

Most Greeks considered Uranus to be primordial (protogenos), and gave him no parentage, but rather being conceived from Chaos, the primal form of the universe, though in Theogony, Hesiod claims him to be the offspring of Gaia. Under the influence of the philosophers, Cicero, in De Natura Deorum ("Concerning the Nature of the Gods"), claims that he was the offspring of the ancient gods Aether and Hemera, Air and Day. According to the Orphic Hymns, Uranus was the son of the personification of night, Nyx.

In the Olympian creation myth, as Hesiod tells it in the Theogony, Uranus came every night to cover the earth and mate with Gaia, but he hated the children she bore him. Hesiod named their first six sons and six daughters the Titans, the three one-hundred-armed giants the Hekatonkheires, and the one-eyed giants the Cyclopes.

Uranus imprisoned Gaia's youngest children in Tartarus, deep within Earth, where they caused pain to Gaia. She shaped a great flint-bladed sickle and asked her sons to castrate Uranus. Only Cronus, youngest and most ambitious of the Titans, was willing: he ambushed his father and castrated him, casting the severed testicles into the sea.

For this fearful deed, Uranus called his sons Titanes Theoi, or "Straining Gods." From the blood that spilled from Uranus onto the Earth came forth the Gigantes, the Erinyes (the avenging Furies), the Meliae (the ash-tree nymphs), and, according to some, the Telchines.

From the genitals in the sea came forth Aphrodite. The learned Alexandrian poet Callimachus reported that the bloodied sickle had been buried in the earth at Zancle in Sicily, but the Romanized Greek traveller Pausanias was informed that the sickle had been thrown into the sea from the cape near Bolina, not far from Argyra on the coast of Achaea, whereas the historian Timaeus located the sickle at Corcyra; Corcyrans claimed to be descendants of the wholly legendary Phaeacia visited by Odysseus, and by circa 500 BCE one Greek mythographer, Acusilaus, was claiming that the Phaeacians had sprung from the very blood of Uranus' castration.

After Uranus was deposed, Cronus re-imprisoned the Hekatonkheires and Cyclopes in Tartarus. Uranus and Gaia then prophesied that Cronus in turn was destined to be overthrown by his own son, and so the Titan attempted to avoid this fate by devouring his young. Zeus, through deception by his mother Rhea, avoided this fate.

These ancient myths of distant origins were not expressed in cults among the Hellenes. The function of Uranus was as the vanquished god of an elder time, before real time began.

After his castration, the Sky came no more to cover the Earth at night, but held to its place, and "the original begetting came to an end" (Kerényi). Uranus was scarcely regarded as anthropomorphic, aside from the genitalia in the castration myth. He was simply the sky, which was conceived by the ancients as an overarching dome or roof of bronze, held in place (or turned on an axis) by the Titan Atlas. In formulaic expressions in the Homeric poems ouranos is sometimes an alternative to Olympus as the collective home of the gods; an obvious occurrence would be the moment in Iliad 1.495, when Thetis rises from the sea to plead with Zeus: "and early in the morning she rose up to greet Ouranos-and-Olympus and she found the son of Kronos ..."

William Sale remarks that "... 'Olympus' is almost always used of [the home of the Olympian gods], but ouranos often refers to the natural sky above us without any suggestion that the gods, collectively live there". Sale concluded that the earlier seat of the gods was the actual Mount Olympus, from which the epic tradition by the time of Homer had transported them to the sky, ouranos. By the sixth century, when a "heavenly Aphrodite" (Urania) was to be distinguished from the "common Aphrodite of the people", ouranos signifies purely the celestial sphere itself.

24 Hours of Blogging in Honor of the Leap Year!

I'll be making one post an hour for the entire 24 extra hours we get this year, so look for 24 posts from this blog on February 29th!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Memphis

In Greek mythology, Memphis was the wife to Epaphus, mother of Libya and sometimes the daughter of Nilus. She and her husband were the legendary founders of Memphis, which bears her name. Memphis is a Naiad Nymph Another name for Memphis's mother is Danaus. Others call her a daughter of the river-god Uchoreus, and add that by Neilus she became the mother of Aegyptus.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Epaphus

In Greek mythology, Epaphus (Ἔπαφος), also called Apis, was the son of Zeus and Io. He was also a king of Egypt.

The name/word Epaphus means "Touch". This refers to the manner in which he was conceived, by the touch of Zeus' hand. He was born in Euboea (Herodotus, Strabo) or, according to others, in Egypt, on the river Nile, after the long wanderings of his mother. He was then concealed by the Curetes, by the request of Hera, but Io sought and afterward found him in Syria.

Epaphus is regarded in the myths as the founder of Memphis, Egypt. With his wife, Memphis (or according to others, Cassiopeia), he had one daughter, Libya. Another of his daughters bore the name of Lysianassa.

Epaphus also criticized Phaëton's heraldry, which prompted him to undertake his fateful journey in his father Phoebus' chariot of the sun. Belus, another mythological king of Egypt, is a grandson of Epaphus.

David Rohl identifies Epaphus as the Hyksos pharoah Apophis.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Aethiopia

Aethiopia (Greek Αἰθιοπία) first appears as a geographical term in classical sources, in reference to the Upper Nile region, as well as all the regions south of the Sahara desert. Its earliest mention is in the works of Homer: twice in the Iliad, and three times in the Odyssey. The Greek historian Herodotus specifically uses it to describe Sub-Saharan Africa. As stated by Lobban, "Greeks referred to Nubia as "Ethiopia," including sometimes parts of "Libya Interior." " The name also features in Greek mythology, where it is sometimes associated with a kingdom said to be seated at Joppa, or elsewhere in Asia.

Various Greek myths make reference to the kingdom of "Aethiopia" said to be somewhere in Asia. This kingdom in the myth of Andromeda was placed at Joppa in Phoenicia. Stephanus of Byzantium (c. AD 500) asserted that the name of Joppa (Yoppa) itself was a contraction of "Aethiopia", and that in antiquity its rule had extended eastward as far as Babylonia.

Cepheus and Cassiopeia, the parents of Andromeda, are presented as the king and queen of Joppa. Pliny the Elder observed a tradition that associated a rock off the coast of Joppa with the mythical rock where Andromeda had been chained. However, the Argonautica says Perseus' "return flight" took him "above the sands of Libya [Africa]".

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cassiopeia

Cassiopeia is the name of several figures in Greek mythology.

The Queen Cassiopeia, wife of king Cepheus of Æthiopia, was beautiful but also arrogant and vain; these latter two characteristics led to her downfall.

Her name in Greek is Κασσιόπη, which means "she whose words excel".

The boast of Cassiopeia was that both she and her daughter Andromeda were more beautiful than all the Nereids, the nymph-daughters of the sea god Nereus. This brought the wrath of Poseidon, ruling god of the sea, upon the kingdom of Ethiopia.

Accounts differ as to whether Poseidon decided to flood the whole country or direct the sea monster Cetus to destroy it. In either case, trying to save their kingdom, Cepheus and Cassiopeia consulted a wise oracle, who told them that the only way to appease the sea gods was to sacrifice their daughter.

Accordingly, Andromeda was chained to a rock at the sea's edge and left there to helplessly await her fate at the hands of Cetus. But the hero Perseus arrived in time, saved Andromeda, and ultimately became her husband.

Since Poseidon thought that Cassiopeia should not escape punishment, he placed her in the heavens tied to a chair in such a position that, as she circles the celestial pole in her throne, she is upside-down half the time. The constellation resembles the chair that originally represented an instrument of torture. Cassiopeia is not always represented tied to the chair in torment, in some later drawings she is holding a mirror, symbol of her vanity, while in others she holds a palm leaf, a symbolism that is not clear.

As it is near the pole star, the constellation Cassiopeia can be seen the whole year from the northern hemisphere, although sometimes upside down.

There was another Cassiopeia in Greek mythology; her name is also given as "Cassiepeia". According to Hesiod, this Cassiopeia was the daughter of Arabus and the wife of King Phoenix. She is given as the mother of the hero Atymnius, by either her husband or the god Zeus. Other accounts also claim she was the mother, by Phoenix, of Phineas and Carme, although the latter is more often said to be a daughter of Eubuleus, a Cretan.

The role of Cassiopeia was played by actress Siân Phillips in Clash of the Titans (1981). In the film she is not punished by Poseidon. Instead the goddess Thetis declares that Andromeda would be given to the Kraken, though Perseus rescues her. In the 2010 remake, Cassiopeia is portrayed by actress Polly Walker, and the character once again is not punished by Poseidon, but aged to death by Hades.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Andromeda

Andromeda is a princess from Greek mythology who, as divine punishment for her mother's bragging, the Boast of Cassiopeia, was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster. She was saved from death by Perseus, her future husband. Her name is the Latinized form of the Greek Ἀνδρομέδη (Andromédē). The traditional etymology of the name is "she who has bravery in her mind" from ἀνήρ, ἀνδρός (anēr, andrós) "man" as in "soldier", and similarly ανδρεία ("bravery") combined with μήδομαι (mēdomai) "to think, to be mindful of." Alternatively it could mean "she who leads"

The subject has been popular in art since classical times, as well as the princess and dragon motif in general. From the Renaissance interest revived in the original story, typically as derived from Ovid's account.

In Greek mythology, Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, king and queen of the kingdom Ethiopia.

Her mother Cassiopeia boasted that she was more beautiful than the Nereids, the nymph-daughters of the sea god Nereus and often seen accompanying Poseidon. To punish the Queen for her arrogance, Poseidon, brother to Zeus and god of the sea, sent a sea monster named Cetus to ravage the coast of Ethiopia including the kingdom of the vain Queen. The desperate King consulted the Oracle of Apollo, who announced that no respite would be found until the king sacrificed his daughter Andromeda to the monster. She was chained naked to a rock on the coast.

Perseus was returning from having slain the Gorgon Medusa, he found Andromeda and slew Cetus by approaching invisible with Hades's helm and slaying him. He set her free, and married her in spite of Andromeda having been previously promised to her uncle Phineus. At the wedding a quarrel took place between the rivals, and Phineus was turned to stone by the sight of the Gorgon's head (Ovid, Metamorphoses v. 1).

Andromeda followed her husband to Tiryns in Argos, and together they became the ancestors of the family of the Perseidae through the line of their son Perses. Perseus and Andromeda had seven sons: Perseides, Perses, Alcaeus, Heleus, Mestor, Sthenelus, and Electryon, and two daughters, Autochthoe and Gorgophone. Their descendants ruled Mycenae from Electryon down to Eurystheus, after whom Atreus attained the kingdom, and would also include the great hero Heracles. According to this mythology, Perseus is the ancestor of the Persians.

After her death, Andromeda was placed by Athena amongst the constellations in the northern sky, near Perseus and Cassiopeia. The constellation had been named after her.

Anahit

Anahit (Armenian: Անահիտ) was the goddess of fertility and healing, wisdom and water in Armenian mythology. In early periods she was the goddess of war. By the 5th century BC she was the main deity in Armenia along with Aramazd. In Armenia, Anahit-worship was established in Erez, Armavir, Artashat and Ashtishat.[2] A mountain in Sophene district was known as Anahit's throne (Athor Anahta). The entire district of Erez, in the province of Akilisene (Ekeghiats), was called Anahtakan Gavar.

According to Plutarch, the temple of Erez was the wealthiest and the noblest in Armenia. During the expedition of Mark Antony in Armenia, the statue was broken to pieces by the Roman soldiers. Pliny the Elder gives us the following story about it: The Emperor Augustus, being invited to dinner by one of his generals, asked him if it were true that the wreckers of Anahit's statue had been punished by the wrathful goddess. No! answered the general, on the contrary, I have to‑day the good fortune of treating you with one part of the hip of that gold statue. The Armenians erected a new golden statue of Anahit in Erez, which was worshiped before the time of St. Gregory Illuminator.

The annual festivity of the month Navasard, held in honor of Anahit, was the occasion of great gatherings, attended with dance, music, recitals, competitions, etc. The sick went to the temples in pilgrimage, asking for recovery. The symbol of ancient Armenian medicine was the head of the bronze gilded statue of the goddess Anahit, which is currently in the British Museum. A mountain in Sophene district was known as Anahit's throne (Athor Anahta). The entire district of Erez, in the province of Akilisene (Ekeghiats), was called Anahtakan Gavar.

According to Agathangelos, King Trdat extolls the: great Lady Anahit, the glory of our nation and vivifier . . .; mother of all chastity, and issue of the great and valiant Aramazd. The historian Berossus identifies Anahit with Aphrodite, while medieval Armenian scribes identify her with Artemis. Though according to Strabo, Anahit's worship included rituals of sacred prostitution, “there is absolutely no proof, however, that this sacred prostitution was characteristic of the Armenian Anahit throughout the country, especially as native Christian writers do not mention it, although they might have used it to great advantage their attacks upon old religion”.

The name corresponds to Avestan Anahita (Aredvi Sura Anahita), a similar divine figure.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Perseus

Perseus (Greek: Περσεύς), the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Perseid dynasty of Danaans there, was the first of the mythic heroes of Greek mythology whose exploits in defeating various archaic monsters provided the founding myths of the Twelve Olympians. Perseus was the Greek hero who killed the Gorgon Medusa, and claimed Andromeda, having rescued her from a sea monster sent by Poseidon in retribution for Queen Cassiopeia declaring herself more beautiful than the Nereids.

Perseus was the son of Zeus and Danaë, who by her very name, was the archetype of all the Danaans. She was the only child of Acrisius, King of Argos. Disappointed by his lack of luck in having a son, Acrisius consulted the oracle at Delphi, who warned him that he would one day be killed by his daughter's son. Danaë was childless and to keep her so, he imprisoned her in a bronze chamber open to the sky in the courtyard of his palace: This mytheme is also connected to Ares, Oenopion, Eurystheus, etc. Zeus came to her in the form of a shower of gold, and impregnated her. Soon after, their child was born; Perseus — "Perseus Eurymedon, for his mother gave him this name as well" (Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica IV).

Fearful for his future but unwilling to provoke the wrath of the gods by killing Zeus's offspring and his own daughter, Acrisius cast the two into the sea in a wooden chest. Danaë's fearful prayer made while afloat in the darkness has been expressed by the poet Simonides of Ceos. Mother and child washed ashore on the island of Seriphos, where they were taken in by the fisherman Dictys ("fishing net"), who raised the boy to manhood. The brother of Dictys was Polydectes ("he who receives/welcomes many"), the king of the island.

After some time, Polydectes fell in love with Danaë, so Perseus, who knew that Polydectes had grim intentions, constantly protected his mother from him. Polydectes desired to remove Perseus from the island so he could have Danaë, and therefore hatched a plot to send him away in disgrace. Polydectes held a large banquet where each guest was expected to bring a gift. Polydectes requested that the guests bring horses, under the pretense that he was collecting contributions for the hand of Hippodamia, "tamer of horses". The fisherman's protégé had no horse to give, so he asked Polydectes to name the gift, for he would not refuse it. Polydectes held Perseus to his rash promise, demanding the head of the only mortal Gorgon, Medusa, whose very expression turned people to stone. Ovid's anecdotal embroidery of Medusa's mortality tells that she had once been a woman, vain of her beautiful hair, who had lain with Poseidon in the Temple of Athena. In punishment for the desecration of her temple, Athena had changed Medusa's hair into hideous snakes "that she may alarm her surprised foes with terror"

Athena instructed Perseus to find the Hesperides, who were entrusted with weapons needed to defeat the Gorgon. Following Athena's guidance, Perseus sought out the Graeae, sisters of the Gorgons, to demand the whereabouts of the Hesperides, the nymphs tending Hera's orchard. The Graeae were three perpetually old women, who had to share a single eye. As the women passed the eye from one to another, Perseus snatched it from them, holding it for ransom in return for the location of the nymphs. When the sisters led him to the Hesperides, he returned what he had taken.

From the Hesperides he received a knapsack (kibisis) to safely contain Medusa's head. Zeus gave him an adamantine sword and Hades' helm of darkness to hide. Hermes lent Perseus winged sandals to fly, while Athena gave him a polished shield. Perseus then proceeded to the Gorgons' cave.

In the cave he came upon the sleeping Stheno, Euryale and Medusa. By viewing Medusa's reflection in his polished shield, he safely approached and cut off her head. From her neck sprang Pegasus ("he who sprang") and Chrysaor ("bow of gold"), the result of Poseidon and Medusa's meeting. The other two Gorgons pursued Perseus, but, wearing his helm of darkness, he escaped.

On the way back to Seriphos Island, Perseus stopped in the kingdom of Ethiopia. This mythical Ethiopia was ruled by King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia, having boasted herself equal in beauty to the Nereids, drew down the vengeance of Poseidon, who sent an inundation on the land and a sea serpent, Cetus, which destroyed man and beast. The oracle of Ammon announced that no relief would be found until the king exposed his daughter Andromeda to the monster, and so she was fastened to a rock on the shore. Perseus slew the monster and, setting her free, claimed her in marriage.

In the classical myth, he flew using the flying sandals. Renaissance Europe and modern imagery has generated the idea that Perseus flew mounted on Pegasus (though not in the paintings by Piero di Cosimo and Titian).

Perseus married Andromeda in spite of Phineus, to whom she had before been promised. At the wedding a quarrel took place between the rivals, and Phineus was turned to stone by the sight of Medusa's head that Perseus had kept. Andromeda ("queen of men") followed her husband to Tiryns in Argos, and became the ancestress of the family of the Perseidae who ruled at Tiryns through her son with Perseus, Perses. After her death she was placed by Athena amongst the constellations in the northern sky, near Perseus and Cassiopeia. Sophocles and Euripides (and in more modern times Pierre Corneille) made the episode of Perseus and Andromeda the subject of tragedies, and its incidents were represented in many ancient works of art.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hera

Hera (/ˈhɛrə/; Greek Ἥρα, Hēra, equivalently Ἥρη, Hērē, in Ionic and Homer) was the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function was as the goddess of women and marriage. Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow and the peacock were sacred to her. Hera's mother was Rhea and her father Cronus.

Portrayed as majestic and solemn, often enthroned, and crowned with the polos (a high cylindrical crown worn by several of the Great Goddesses), Hera may bear a pomegranate in her hand, emblem of fertile blood and death and a substitute for the narcotic capsule of the opium poppy. A scholar of Greek mythology Walter Burkert writes in Greek Religion, "Nevertheless, there are memories of an earlier aniconic representation, as a pillar in Argos and as a plank in Samos."

Hera was known for her jealous and vengeful nature, most notably against Zeus's lovers and offspring, but also against mortals who crossed her, such as Pelias. Paris offended her by choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess, earning Hera's hatred.

Hera may have been the first to whom the Greeks dedicated an enclosed roofed temple sanctuary, at Samos about 800 BC. It was replaced later by the Heraion, one of the largest Greek temples anywhere (Greek altars were in front of the temples, under the open sky). There were many temples built on this site so evidence is somewhat confusing and archaeological dates are uncertain. We know that the temple created by the Rhoecus sculptors and architects was destroyed between 570- 60 BC. This was replaced by the Polycratean temple 540-530 BC. In one of these temples we see a forest of 155 columns. There is also no evidence of tiles on this temple suggesting either the temple was never finished or that the temple was open to the sky.

Earlier sanctuaries, whose dedication to Hera is less secure, were of the Mycenaean type called "house sanctuaries". Samos excavations have revealed votive offerings, many of them late 8th and 7th centuries BC, which show that Hera at Samos was not merely a local Greek goddess of the Aegean: the museum there contains figures of gods and suppliants and other votive offerings from Armenia, Babylon, Iran, Assyria, Egypt, testimony to the reputation which this sanctuary of Hera enjoyed and to the large influx of pilgrims. Compared to this mighty goddess, who also possessed the earliest temple at Olympia and two of the great fifth and sixth century temples of Paestum, the termagant of Homer and the myths is an "almost...comic figure" according to Burkert

Though greatest and earliest free-standing temple to Hera was the Heraion of Samos, in the Greek mainland Hera was especially worshipped as "Argive Hera" (Hera Argeia) at her sanctuary that stood between the former Mycenaean city-states of Argos and Mycenae, where the festivals in her honor called Heraia were celebrated. "The three cities I love best," the ox-eyed Queen of Heaven declares (Iliad, book iv) "are Argos, Sparta and Mycenae of the broad streets." There were also temples to Hera in Olympia, Corinth, Tiryns, Perachora and the sacred island of Delos. In Magna Graecia, two Doric temples to Hera were constructed at Paestum, about 550 BC and about 450 BC. One of them, long called the Temple of Poseidon was identified in the 1950s as a second temple there of Hera.

In Euboea the festival of the Great Daedala, sacred to Hera, was celebrated on a sixty-year cycle.

Hera's importance in the early archaic period is attested by the large building projects undertaken in her honor. The temples of Hera in the two main centers of her cult, the Heraion of Samos and the Heraion of Argos in the Argolid, were the very earliest monumental Greek temples constructed, in the 8th century BC.

In Hellenistic imagery, Hera's chariot was pulled by peacocks, birds not known to Greeks before the conquests of Alexander. Alexander's tutor, Aristotle, refers to it as "the Persian bird." The peacock motif was revived in the Renaissance iconography that unified Hera and Juno, and which European painters focused on.[21] A bird that had been associated with Hera on an archaic level, where most of the Aegean goddesses were associated with "their" bird, was the cuckoo, which appears in mythic fragments concerning the first wooing of a virginal Hera by Zeus.

Her archaic association was primarily with cattle, as a Cow Goddess, who was especially venerated in "cattle-rich" Euboea. On Cyprus, very early archaeological sites contain bull skulls that have been adapted for use as masks (see Bull (mythology)). Her familiar Homeric epithet Boôpis, is always translated "cow-eyed", for, like the Greeks of Classical times, its other natural translation "cow-faced" or at least "of cow aspect" is rejected. A cow-headed Hera, like a Minotaur would be at odds with the maternal image of the later classical period. In this respect, Hera bears some resemblance to the Ancient Egyptian deity Hathor, a maternal goddess associated with cattle.

The pomegranate, an ancient emblem of the Great Goddess, remained an emblem of Hera: many of the votive pomegranates and poppy capsules recovered at Samos are made of ivory, which survived burial better than the wooden ones that must have been more common. Like all goddesses, images of Hera might show her wearing a diadem and a veil

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Zeus

In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus (/ˈzjuːs/ zews zooss; Ancient Greek: Ζεύς; Modern Greek: Δίας, Dias) was the "Father of Gods and men" (πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε) who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.

Zeus was the child of Cronus and Rhea, and the youngest of his siblings. In most traditions he was married to Hera, although, at the oracle of Dodona, his consort was Dione: according to the Iliad, he is the father of Aphrodite by Dione. He is known for his erotic escapades. These resulted in many godly and heroic offspring, including Athena, Apollo and Artemis, Hermes, Persephone (by Demeter), Dionysus, Perseus, Heracles, Helen of Troy, Minos, and the Muses (by Mnemosyne); by Hera, he is usually said to have fathered Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus.

As Walter Burkert points out in his book, Greek Religion, "Even the gods who are not his natural children address him as Father, and all the gods rise in his presence." For the Greeks, he was the King of the Gods, who oversaw the universe. As Pausanias observed, "That Zeus is king in heaven is a saying common to all men". In Hesiod's Theogony Zeus assigns the various gods their roles. In the Homeric Hymns he is referred to as the chieftain of the gods.

His symbols are the thunderbolt, eagle, bull, and oak. In addition to his Indo-European inheritance, the classical "cloud-gatherer" also derives certain iconographic traits from the cultures of the Ancient Near East, such as the scepter. Zeus is frequently depicted by Greek artists in one of two poses: standing, striding forward, with a thunderbolt leveled in his raised right hand, or seated in majesty.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Amalthea

In Greek mythology, Amalthea or Amaltheia (Greek: Ἀμάλθεια) is the most-frequently mentioned foster-mother of Zeus. Her name in Greek ("tender goddess") is clearly an epithet, signifying the presence of an earlier nurturing goddess, whom the Hellenes, whose myths we know, knew to be located in Crete, where Minoans may have called her a version of "Dikte". Amalthea is sometimes represented as the goat who suckled the infant-god in a cave in Cretan Mount Aigaion ("Goat Mountain"), sometimes as a goat-tending nymph of uncertain parentage (the daughter of Oceanus, Haemonius, Olenos, or - according to Lactantius — Melisseus), who brought him up on the milk of her goat. Having multiple and uncertain mythological parents, indicates wide worship of a deity in many cultures having varying local traditions. Amalthea becomes blurred with Adamanthea at times.

In the tradition represented by Hesiod's Theogony, Cronus swallowed all of his children immediately after birth. The mother goddess Rhea, Zeus' mother, deceived her brother consort Cronus by giving him a stone wrapped to look like a baby instead of Zeus. Since she instead gave the infant Zeus to Adamanthea to nurse in a cave on a mountain in Crete, it is clear that Adamanthea is a doublet of Amalthea. In many literary references, the Greek tradition relates that in order that Cronus should not hear the wailing of the infant, Amalthea gathered about the cave the Kuretes or the Korybantes to dance, shout, and clash their spears against their shields.

Amalthea's skin, or that of her goat, killed and skinned by the grown Zeus, became the protective aegis in some traditions, a vivid enough metaphor for the transfer of power to this Olympian god from that of the goddess who preceded his cult.

"Amaltheia was placed amongst the stars as the constellation Capra — the group of stars surrounding Capella on the arm (ôlenê) of Auriga the Charioteer." Capra simply means "she-goat" and the star-name Capella is the "little goat", but some modern readers confuse her with the male sea-goat of the Zodiac, Capricorn, who bears no relation to Amalthea, no connection in a Greek or Latin literary source nor any ritual or inscription to join the two. Hyginus describes this catasterism in the Poetic Astronomy, in speaking of Auriga, the Charioteer:

Parmeniscus says that a certain Melisseus was king in Crete, and to his daughters Jove was brought to nurse. Since they did not have milk, they furnished him a she-goat, Amalthea by name, who is said to have reared him. She often bore twin kids, and at the very time that Jove was brought to her to nurse, had borne a pair. And so because of the kindness of the mother, the kids, too were placed among the constellations. Cleostratus of Tenedos is said to have first pointed out these kids among the stars.

But Musaeus says Jove was nursed by Themis and the nymph Amalthea, to whom he was given by Ops, his mother. Now Amalthea had as a pet a certain goat which is said to have nursed Jove.